Foundation for Pale Skin | Bobbi Brown Luminous Moisturising Foundation in Alabaster Review

Bobbi Brown Luminous Moisturising Foundation in Alabaster

If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, then:

a) You’re probably one of my parents. Hi guys! Dad, you might want to skip this one: it’s about makeup, and I don’t mention you at all. Other than this one time, obviously.

b) You’re also probably aware of the fact that beauty companies like to spite me by working out which products I absolutely cannot live without, and then immediately discontinuing them, thus forcing me to, you know, LIVE WITHOUT THEM. GOD.

As a result of this sad state of affairs (Point 2, I mean), last year Bobbi Brown got wind of the fact that their ‘Alabaster’ foundation shade (The palest shade they do, available across their entire foundation range) was the best match I’d ever found for my skin… so, naturally, they discontinued it in the UK. Instantly. I’m pretty sure someone got fired for not realising sooner, actually. I mean, HEAVEN FORBID that pale people in the UK actually get to buy foundation that suits them, huh?

But! All was not lost! Well, I mean, it kinda was, to be honest. “Alabaster” was still available in the US, but because of laws designed to protect us from terrorists, and also to prevent us from buying the perfect foundation for our skin tones, there aren’t any US retailers willing to ship it here, and trust me, I’ve looked. That foundation was not to be had for love nor money, (Actually, it probably CAN be had for money, I expect. I mean, I bet if you’re Richard Branson, or the Queen, or someone like that, you could get yourself hooked up with some Alabaster foundation if you really wanted it. And once again I find myself cursing the fact that I was not born into Royalty. SO UNFAIR.), so there was nothing for it:

I would have to go to America.

And so I did.

foundation for pale skin

I mean, I didn’t go JUST for the foundation. That would be a bit extreme even for me. But while I was in Miami this summer, I swung by the Bobbi Brown counter, ready to stock up.

This is where it all started to go wrong.

You see, my Bobbi Brown ‘Alabaster’ foundation of choice had been the Natural Finish Long Lasting Foundation, which I loved, and was totally happy with. Because I am stupid, though, rather than simply stocking up on that, I decided that THIS time I would go for a completely different type of foundation. I mean, why invest your hard-earned cash on a sure thing, when you can take a risk on a totally unknown quantity instead? And, after all, it was the COLOUR that was the important thing here, so as long as the foundation I purchased was in the much-coveted ‘Alabaster’ shade, I’d be golden. Well, Alabaster. You know what I mean,

This decision wasn’t quite as random as it probably sounds. Don’t get me wrong, it was still pretty ill-advised, but the thing is, before ‘Alabaster’ was discontinued, I’d been on a bit of a mission to try out every variation of it, to see which one I liked best. It was a pretty dull excuse for a project, sure, but it was one I had committed myself to, and I WOULD see it through, dammit. Also, my skin at that point was looking rather lacklustre, to say the least. I’m lucky in that I don’t really get a lot of breakouts, but I’d been under a lot of stress, and I hadn’t been eating or sleeping particularly well, so it was looking a bit dull and tired. What I needed was something to make it look a little bit… dewy. A little bit fresh. A little bit luminous. In fact, let’s cut to the chase: what I needed was Bobbi Brown’s Luminous Moisturising Foundation, I decided. So that’s what I bought. In ‘Alabaster’, obviously. And I may as well just ‘fess up here and admit that I committed the cardinal sin of make-up purchasing, and I bought it without testing it first, because I thought I knew exactly what I was getting. (Also because the girls at the Lancome counter across the aisle were staring at me as if I had three heads, and it was making me so uncomfortable I just wanted to get out of there, STAT.) (Also because when I went to pay for it, I realised I’d left my wallet at home, and I had to hit Terry up for the cash, and then also explain to him WHY a tiny bottle of makeup costs SO DAMN MUCH.) (He had to pay for dinner that night, too. I should leave my wallet at home more often.)

Now, this foundation offers light to medium coverage, and is designed to make the skin “glow”. I normally go for something with much higher, matte coverage, but as I said, my skin wasn’t looking its best, and I find that heavy foundation can actually accentuate that rather than hide it sometimes, so I figured something lightweight and dewy might be a better bet. I was wrong about this, obviously. I mean, there’s a reason I normally go for matte foundations, and the reason is that I AM SHINY. Oh, so very shiny. Only on the forehead, though. The rest of my face is relatively normal in terms of shine, but my forehead does have a tendency to look a bit, er “dewy” sometimes, and while we’re on the subject, that’s ALSO one of the reasons I keep toying with the idea of a fringe. But anyway!

This foundation looks great on the cheeks, then: it does, indeed, create a nice, “luminous” glow, and the kind of fresh, dewy complexion I’ve always dreamt of. On the forehead, on the other hand? SHINY. Way too shiny. I don’t normally use face powder, but I have to use it with this, or I’ll spend the day looking like I’m feeling really guilty about something, and have broken into a cold sweat as a result. It’s not good.

The coverage, meanwhile, is… OK. It’s much lighter than I’m used to, but I knew that would be the case, and on the plus side, it’s easy to apply and blend, and it looks natural on the skin (Other than on the forehead, obviously). It’s also pretty long-lasting: I haven’t ever needed to re-apply it or touch it up once it’s on, and it lasts all day without flaking, fading, or starting to slide off the skin. Honestly, on someone with dryer skin than mine, I think it would be pretty near perfect… if it weren’t for the colour.

This Alabaster, you see, is not the same as the Alabaster I’m used to. I don’t have any of my Natural Finish foundation left to compare it to, but as soon as I started to apply this for the first time, I felt like it was both darker and yellower than I was expecting:

Bobbi Brown Alabaster foundation swatch

Hmmmm. Without another ‘Alabaster’ to compare it to, I swatched it against my MAC Studio Fix in NW10 instead, and here are the results:

MAC NW10 vs Bobbi Brown Alabaster -pale foundations

pale foundation swatches: MAC NW10 vs Bobbi Brown Alabaster

As you can (hopefully) see, the Bobbi Brown foundation is actually the darker of the two. This surprised me, because although I’ve never compared them side by side, I’d have said the MAC product was a little darker than the previous Bobbi Brown I was using. It’s both lighter and less yellow than this one, though, and although Bobbi Brown foundations are notoriously yellow toned, my last one wasn’t at all, so I wasn’t really expecting this one to be, either. When I apply it, though, I definitely notice the yellow in it, and although it’s not pronounced enough to prevent me using up the rest of the bottle (Well, I DID travel 2,000 miles for it, after all…) it would prevent me buying this particular product again. Assuming it was actually available here, that is. Ahem.

To be perfectly honest, I was almost relieved by this revelation. Any time I write about products that have been discontinued, I get a lot of recommendations for alternatives that are only available in America, and which I COULD probably buy, but only if I was willing to spend hours trawling the internet (Or buying from eBay sellers who only have one bottle in stock, meaning that once it’s gone, I have to start the whole tedious process again). I’m far too lazy for that kind of thing, and it’s been a bit of a pain this past year thinking that my perfect foundation shade was tantalizingly out of reach, so it was actually a bit of a relief to know that the shade I’ve been searching for isn’t actually any better than the MAC foundation which is readily available. And which is also cheaper, now I come to think of it.

Looks like it’s back to MAC for me, then!

23 Comments

  • Daisy says:

    I also used to love Bobbi Brown’s Alabaster. I’m a brunette in a family of redheads but am actually paler than them. My recent discovery is Boots No7 in Calico. I thought I’d give the No7 ladies with their magic matching wand a bit of a challenge. I fully expected there not to be a foundation to match my albino skin. However, their palest, Calico, did actually work. It looked dark in the pan, but doesn’t look that way on. It’s actually a better match for me than Bobbi, and way cheaper! Having read reviews, apparently there has been a reformulation and previously shades were yellow toned. However, at the moment pink tones are reigning, which is great for me. Have you tried this?

    • Amber says:

      No, I haven’t tried that one – No.7 has always been too dark for me in the past!

      • Nicola says:

        I’ve also tried every foundation under the sun (so it seems!) and I now swear by Calico too. They also do different formulas, I have a matte medium coverage and love it madly.

        I was really impressed by the service, and it helped that I knew Lisa Eldridge was a driving force behind it! Heartily recommend!

  • Panthera says:

    I’ve not tried huge amounts of foundations, I have a tendency to prefer lighter, natural-looking skin products (and my skin is dry and really sensitive) but I’ve struggled so much trying to find a light foundation that is pink. I usually need to use the lightest shade but it is almost always yellow/beige base, which doesn’t match my pink skin at all, and the pinker shades are almost always too dark. :(

  • msveve says:

    Loved this post :)

    Being pale (but I think I’m a little darker than you) I tend to use BB creams or CC creams instead of foundations because they give me a little coverage (I mainly have dark circles under my eyes and I usually just ignore them, but sometimes I use concealer) and they give my skin much need moisture and even it out.

    BB and CC creams have started to get really popular in the US and Europe but I still think the Asian brands are the best (and also the palest).

    Have you tried any of those?

    • Amber says:

      No, they don’t give high enough coverage for me.

      • EagleVision1999 says:

        The coverage BB creams offer varies a lot between brands though. Some offer similar coverage to foundations. I personally like Lioele best, but of course those are Asian products so you’d have to buy internationally. Same trouble as the America-only products.

  • Laura says:

    Have you tried Kevyn Aucoin? The Sensual Skin Enhancer is super gorgeous and unbelievably pigmented, and has a pretty good colour range- SX01 is very pale, I believe. SpaceNK has it if you;re interested :)

  • Lucy Chahil says:

    I’m always on the look out for a good pale foundation.

    I’ve just finished the No 7 Calico and found it okay. Not perfect but saw it through to the end.

    Tomorrow, I’m off on the hunt for a suitable replacement – I’m heading back to Clinique, I used to like their palest SuperBalanced one so going to see if that is the same.

    Today though I had to resort to a Decleor BB cream I bought a few months ago – absolutely awful, it’s so dark on my skin. I’ve felt orange all day!

  • Heather says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this foundation. It feels like a never ending journey we redheads are on for the perfect foundation.

  • Catherine says:

    I have the same problem as you and also bought this foundation (though just at a counter in House of Fraser), and I not have to wear it when I have a bit of fake tan on, which is ridiculous for a shade called alabaster. Anyway, in my search I have found a couple of really pale foundations – la teint touche eclat in BR10 is good, but doesn’t give a high coverage, but nars does a really good creamy concealer and I find the two of them work well together. I also found a brand called arbonne who do a high coverage foundation, also in the shade alabaster but this time it is actually alabaster. Hope this helps!

  • Stacey says:

    Have you ever tried any foundations by Laura Mercier? I have super fair skin and at a makeover at Sephora that’s what was used on me, in the palest shade possible in the powder foundation. It was pinker than I liked for my skin – even though everyone disagreed with me, but the liquid foundation I did like.

  • Kate says:

    Oh, having fair skin can be a real trial. But we porcelain princesses are slowly being recognised as a market & more options are available. My suggestions:
    Makeup forever HD or mat velvet – beautiful coverage & plenty of options for the palest of skin (… it is hard to find in the UK). Chantecaille is beautiful too. iIllamasqua is a little easier to find & has good colours, but get a sample because it doesn’t agree with everyone’s skin. And I’ve heard good things about Dainty Doll, but its not available in my country!

  • Christine says:

    Clinique also have Alabaster, I’ve found their foundation to be fantastic!

  • Alex says:

    It was like reading my own story!!!
    Shame on you BB!
    I have found a great foundation, which I daresay could be nearly as light as the Natural Finish Alabaster (which yes, was lighter than the other Alabasters):
    Not sure if you have this brand in the UK…. But GOSH’s CC Cream in 1 Porcelain (Not the BB Cream!). Its light to medium coverage, but very buildable, comes in a tube, sits nicely on the skin… and much nicer than natural finish ever did on me.

    OH, I found it http://www.superdrug.com/face/gosh-cc-cream-foundation-porcelain-1/invt/720285&bklist=

  • Nicki says:

    Estée Lauder – double wear in ivory rose. You will love it!

  • Danielle says:

    Brilliant review. I’m really pale too and I’ve always struggled to find a foundation that suits my skin colour. On top of that I’m also extremely allergic to several foundations so I’m on the look out for a foundation that I can use with no problems.

    The closest I’ve found that I’m not allergic to is Dainty Doll but I’m sure they don’t make foundation anymore? I may be wrong.

    The colours are perfect there but in all honesty I found the foundation made my skin flaky..

  • Vikki Greer says:

    I am the palest woman of all time and I have the same issues with you in finding a colour that suits. Anything “porcelain” or “ivory” is never THAT, it’s orange. I did a review lately on Illamasqua Skin Base on shade 02. This is a really great full coverage foundation, and it’s super light. And I mean, paler than Mac (I tried that too). Definitely suggest you check it out plus, you can get testers on ebay (see the link in my blog above) so you can try before you buy. I started doing this will all foundations because I have been bitten so many times by poor coverage when the colour is right, and vice versa!! Also, as a cheap alternative, Revlon Colourstay is brilliant, great coverage and really light. Hope this helps!

    • Amber says:

      I actually have both of those – haven’t had a chance to review the Illamaaqua yet, but there should be a Revlon review in the archives somewhere: it’s a little too dark for me, but I really like the coverage so I normally have a bottle of it in reserve in case the others run out on me!

  • Ally says:

    I went to House of Fraser in Norwich to try the Alabaster shade & got the Bobbi Brown foundation stick. I find the colour perfect but the coverage heavy. I usually use a liquid foundation and I was thinking of trying this or the BB cream in extra light (it has an SPF 35 – perfect for redheads). I also like their powder in white.

    In the past I swore by lancomes lightest shade but I swear they darkened it at the start if the recession. I tried Ester Lauder. maybellene, no7 calico (too oily for me) and illamasca in white to lighten shades. I thought Dainty Doll was a good shade but was too Matt for me. I think I have very dry skin.

    I hope it’s not too personal to ask but I think your eyebrows look great. I never dare do anything with mine but I wondered if you use something to darken them & if you could do a post on that please. I’ve been thinking about trying Benefits Brow kit.

    • Amber says:

      Hi Ally!

      I normally use the HD Brows palette – there’s a post about it here:

      http://www.foreveramber.co.uk/2011/10/dollface-reviews-hd-brows-eye-and-brow-palette.html

      • Katharine in Brussels says:

        Hi Amber, I am a sister BB Alabaster fan, (redhead) and live in Europe. After years of living here in Brussels BB finally set up a shop in Belgium–and they sell online. NAYY but jsut to tell you the name: cosmeticary. I don’t know if they ship to the UK. Hope so. They have a girl who works there on Fridays and weekends who explained to me that BB discontinued the Alabaster shade in some formulas due to something like not being able to get hte same shade consistently depending on the formula. I switched to another Alabaster formula but used to use the same type as you did. BTW if you have any yellowness problem–try using plain baby powder as powder. BB sells an Alabaster powder but I found no difference whatsoever with baby powder.

        KWYM about light foundation colours: the entire Belgian cosmetics array had no shade any lighter than sand beige until this shop opened in 2012 and magically also stocked my fave BB products. Before that I used to buy them onsite in France, in the US, or at a Douglas store across the border in Germany.

        Thanks for replying about your brows, because I too am the owner of pale brows and use BB’s camel eyeshadow with an angled brush, but will look for that brand you recommended. Redheads unite!

  • May I just say what a relief to find somebody who really knows what they
    are talking about on the internet. You definitely understand how to bring
    an issue to light and make it important. More people
    ought to check this out and understand this side of the story.
    I was surprised that you aren’t more popular given that you surely have the gift.

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